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Kachadoorian v. United Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 2, 2019

GREG KACHADOORIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ON PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

          R. Brooke Jackson, United States District Judge.

         In this employment discrimination lawsuit, defendant United Airlines, Inc. (“United”) moves to dismiss all but one of plaintiff Greg Kachadoorian's claims for relief. ECF No. 51. For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background.

         Plaintiff began working for defendant in May 1995, attaining the management position of ramp supervisor.[1] Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), ECF No. 57 at ¶¶13-14. On February 1, 2018, after 23 years of service, defendant terminated the 57-year-old employee for poor performance. Id. at ¶¶16, 18. Plaintiff alleges that defendant's justification for his termination was “false, exaggerated and pretextual.” Id. at ¶18. The real motivation, according to plaintiff, was his age and gender. Id. at ¶19. Plaintiff reached this conclusion by alleging that defendant “has a history of ridding itself of older and long-term employees for bogus reasons and also for complaining about discrimination.” Id. at ¶20.

         B. Procedural Background.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in this Court on May 16, 2018. ECF No. 1. At the time, he had yet to file charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), thereby making his discrimination and retaliation claims premature. As such, his original complaint focused on United's alleged breach of contract for failure to honor its appeal process, misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. Id. at ¶¶70-81. Defendant moved to dismiss all five original claims, ECF No. 13, and I granted that motion in part, ECF No. 37. Only plaintiff's breach of contract claim, and alternatively, his promissory estoppel claim, survived. Id. at 13- 14. In short, I found that the termination letter that defendant provided plaintiff contained a sufficient promise that he had a right to appeal his termination decision in accordance with defendant's “Working Together Guidelines.” In reliance on that promise, plaintiff began the appeal process the day after his termination. Defendant almost completed the entire appeal process, including a face-to-face meeting, but defendant stopped short of completing the last step-it never issued a ruling on the appeal.[2] I ruled that plaintiff adequately pled a breach of contract claim based on defendant's failure to adhere to its appeal procedure, as outlined in its Working Together Guidelines and as promised in plaintiff's termination letter.

         On September 30, 2018 plaintiff received his notice of right to sue for alleged age discrimination from the EEOC. He subsequently filed a first amended complaint (“FAC”). ECF No. 45. Plaintiff's FAC alleged claims of (1) age discrimination under federal and state law; (2) improper retaliation under federal and state law; (3) and breach of contract and estoppel. Id. at 17-18. Moreover, on December 8, 2018 plaintiff received a notice of right to sue for alleged sex discrimination. Upon receipt of this second right to sue notice, he sought leave to amend his FAC to add a claim of sex discrimination. ECF No. 50. The following day, defendant filed its second motion to dismiss, seeking to dismiss all but the breach of contract and estoppel claims contained in the FAC. ECF No. 51. Plaintiff responded in opposition, ECF No. 54, and defendant replied, ECF No. 55. I granted plaintiff's motion to amend his FAC, but instead of mooting defendant's motion to dismiss, I allowed each side to supplement their motion to dismiss papers. ECF No. 56. Defendant submitted a supplemental brief in which it focused almost entirely on plaintiff's sex discrimination allegations. ECF No. 58. Plaintiff did not respond. Defendant's motion to dismiss is now ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plausible claim is a claim that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See, e.g., Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         This motion boils down to whether plaintiff has satisfied the basic pleading standards as explained by the Supreme Court in Twombly and Iqbal.[3] Defendant argues that plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims are vague, conclusory, and devoid of factual allegations. ECF No. 51 at 2. I agree.

         A. Federal Age and Sex Discrimination Claims.

         The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee because of the employee's age, and Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, among other protected classes. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To prevail on his discrimination claims, plaintiff must establish intentional discrimination through either direct or indirect evidence. Orr v. City of Albuquerque, 417 F.3d 1144, 1149 (10th Cir. 2005). Where, as here, there is no direct evidence of discrimination, a court must apply the burden-shifting analysis outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Id. The first step in that analysis requires plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.[4]Id. To properly state a claim under the ADEA, plaintiff must allege “that (1) []he is ‘within the protected age group'; (2) []he ‘was doing satisfactory work'; (3) []he ‘was discharged'; and (4) h[is] position was filled by a younger person.” Cone v. Longmont United Hosp. Ass'n, 14 F.3d 526, 529 (10th Cir. 1994) (quoting Denison v. Swaco Geolograph Co., 941 F.2d 1416, 1420 (10th Cir. 1991)). To properly state a Title VII sex discrimination claim, plaintiff must establish that “(1) []he is a member of a protected class, (2) []he suffered an adverse employment action, (3) []he qualified for the position at issue, and (4) []he was treated less favorably than others not in the protected class.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d ...


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